Jul 31, 201308:16 AM
Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Some Equipment Essentials
(page 1 of 2)
As we go steaming into the second quarter of our second year as full-time cruisers, I thought I’d forgo the philosophy of my last post and focus on the nuts and bolts of our liveaboard existence and pass judgement of some of the operating and equipment systems on Swing Set, and what I think are essential, or perhaps, not so essential, items that are good to have on a boat if you embark on an endeavor similar to ours.
In no particular order, more likely as they come to mind:
The Air-X wind generators are getting a thumbs up. Certainly, if coastal cruising will be a large part of your cruising ground, where ocean breezes abound, a wind generator or two may be worth the money. I have decided finally that it is the case for us.
I can tell a big difference in our Westerbeke diesel generator use when we get a string of calm days, like we had for two or three days in a row recently. Keeping air conditioner use out of the equation, if there is no wind, we need to run the generator at least four hours per day to provide enough charging for the 11 batteries we have onboard. Our Norcold AC/DC refrigerator is the biggest draw on our power, but our Mac desktop computer is a big current user that we didn’t consider. The TV, and even house stereo, if you like watts (big sound), will drain those batteries down, too. I don’t want to get bogged down on power management in this blog, just suffice it to say that I’m a fan of auxiliary power generation, be it solar or wind.
The watermaker gets a big thumbs up if you will be cruising in clean saltwater. Not all areas along the Florida coast are places I’d make water, but if you stay in the U.S., you can probably find water easily, just be careful about getting water at condo complexes where there are nosy old folks who have nothing else to do but guard their precious water supply, whether you get permission from someone else or not.
Our Katadyn Power Survivor 80 is a 12-volt unit, and the 3.5 gallon per hour advertised output more than keeps up with our needs, at least if I keep the water leaks in the plumbing to a minimum.
Our power windlass with 25 feet of chain and a 45-pound Delta anchor has been flawless, if I am careful about where I stick the hook. The little float I deploy at the anchor rode/chain splice keeps the rode off of the bottom where the sand and coral can wear on it. The half-inch line is plenty strong and will do fine if you don’t run over it.
Extra, heavy anchors. We have two, along with plenty of line, and they are handy to have. We learned that lesson while waiting out Hurricane Isaac last year above the last lock and dam on the Tenn-Tom. Held us so well, one of the anchors didn’t want to leave. It’s still there.
We haven’t felt a need for a lower helm station. We would always want shade for any helm station, though. We don’t run in the cold, and don’t intend to, but I have jackets and a coat around here somewhere if it gets chilly. I have a couple of space heaters, too, to put at our feet if we need them, but again, if we are somewhere where it gets that cold, we are lost.
Replacing our microwave with a convection oven was the best thing for the galley, by far. We can bake and grill in it, making our Magna propane grill seem superfluous at times, but do know that any oven inside the boat will increase the heat. A propane grill outside for warm days is just the ticket.
Back to power management; an inverter is necessary. Not so much so you can run your AC equipment on the hook (you never have enough battery supply to run air conditioners or cooking devices off the batteries for very long), but an inverter lets you run AC-powered devices while you are underway. Great for making coffee and breakfast underway on an early start. This alone is worth the money for an inverter and the battery bank required to run it.
I wouldn’t have anything but AGM batteries. We have 11 batteries (Group 31s, we don’t have room for 8Ds), and I don’t want the maintenance of checking fluids on all those batteries once a month, or more, with lead acid-type batteries. Battery technology is improving all the time, and we’ll be on the lookout for better ones as they come along. They are our lifeline to living aboard on the hook.